HC Deb 06 July 1877 vol 235 cc917-21

Supply—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £193,890, Admiralty Office.

(2.) £207,900, Coast Guard Service and Royal Naval Reserves, &c.


took occasion, while regretting the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty and its cause, to express his dissatisfaction with the present state of the Naval Reserve, observing that he did not believe it was placed upon such a footing that we could rely on it in a case of sudden emergency. The subject, had, however, he admitted, received more attention from the present Head of the Admiralty than from any of his Predecessors in office, and, as he was not able to be in the House, he would content himself with giving Notice that he would bring the question before the House on a future occasion.


pursued a similar course. He had much to notice about the Naval Reserve; but as the First Lord's illness, which they all so much regretted, prevented his attendance, he would say no more on the subject. He would like, however, to know the present number?


said, the number of the Naval Reserve was 17,217, of whom a little over 13,000 were in the First Class.


said, that he had a Notice on the Paper to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £151,700, being the amount to be devoted for providing for 17,000 men of that Force, but that he would not press his Motion to a division in the absence of his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, although he felt it his duty to explain his reasons for wishing to move the reduction of the Vote. In the first place, the Royal Naval Reserve existed only on paper, every available British seaman was enrolled, and the total number reached, say, 13,000 men, as shown in the Report of the Admiral lately in command of that contingent, in the following words:— It would appear that we possess nearly all the A.B.'s. in the Mercantile Marine that comply with the conditions laid down. The number floats between 12,000 and 13,000 men, and the entries about keep pace with the discharges. Now, what did this mean? Why, that in the British Mercantile Marine, which consisted of some 25,000 ships and 200,000 men, at least, there were only 13,000 real British seamen employed, the rest being foreigners and riff-raff of the worst description. In the event of war, the Mercantile Marine would be almost of as much importance to the nation as the Royal Navy, and must be largely employed to lay out coal for our war-ships, and bring back grain for our own consumption. The foreign element in the crews could not be depended upon, and therefore the Government dared not take any of these 13,000 men out of the merchant ships in which they were serving. Practically, for this reason, there was no Naval Reserve, and to spend money upon it under this condition of affairs was a sheer waste. Our so-called Royal Naval Reserve was a sham and a delusion.


expressed approval of the course taken by the Admiralty in encouraging the committees of training ships in their efforts to prepare boys for the Navy. With regard to the Naval Artillery Volunteers, he hoped that whenever a complete brigade of them should have been formed, the Admiralty would entertain the question of increasing the very small emoluments of the officers instructing the brigade.


wished to know whether there were any stokers in the Naval Reserve? He had understood that there were none, and he thought that the question was important. It was, as he knew, constantly the practice to send men from the deck to act as stokers, and that was obviously not the proper way of supplying a deficiency. Their duties were most important, and required close attention to make them efficient. He would like to mention the seamen of the Marine Pensioners' Reserve. That Reserve had recently been started, in order that younger men might not be lost sight of, and various inducements were offered them; but there was a large class of men, such as artificers and police, who could not avail themselves of that Reserve, and he wished to know whether they could not be in any way organized. They deserved to be regarded as worthy of notice.


said, he thought it desirable that the men of the Royal Naval Reserve should be brought together, say, at certain points of the coast, and accustomed to drill and thorough experience in the duties which they might be called upon to perform. What was wanted was a system under which 4,000 or 5,000 men could be sent out for practice once a-year, instead of as at present by driblets; and he trusted that the Admiralty would call out the men for that purpose, and for inspection.


approved of the training of boys for the Naval Service. He could not agree as to the sufficiency of the Mercantile Marine to furnish the Naval Reserve, as there were not so many able seamen in the Mercantile Marine as there should be.


hoped the Government would not embark on any new system of Reserve as regarded artificers and stokers, who occupied a different position from that of the seamen. The whole system of Reserve was that of drilling men and preparing them in times of peace for the duties they would have to discharge in times of war, and its object was that the authorities might be able to lay their hands on the men when they were wanted; but it was one thing to have a Reserve of men whose duties were of a special kind and another to maintain a class of ordinary artificers whose duties were always the same, and who required no special drill. The Government, then, would merely throw money away if it adopted that scheme.


was very sorry to hear the account of the Naval Reserve as given by the hon. and gallant Member for Gravesend; but he believed the tendency of modern appliances was to reduce the number of men required. Whatever arrangements were made for a Naval Reserve, they must contemplate that they could not put them on board the Fleet without great inconvenience to the trade of the country.


hoped the Government would encourage the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, by which means they would soon possess a real, and not a sham, Royal Naval Reserve. He would undertake to raise 30,000 Naval Volunteers within a twelvemonth, really effective men, always on the spot, and always ready for service, and who would cost less than half that number of so-called Reserves, not one-tenth of whom could be relied upon when wanted. Instead of the useless coast defenders we ought to have light draught fast gunboats, armed with the longest range guns and manned by the Naval Volunteers stationed round our coast. The nation would then be not only efficiently defended, but capable of taking the offensive in any part of the world on the shortest notice. He earnestly hoped that the Admiralty would give attention to this deeply important subject. It was impossible to speak too highly of the good qualities of the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, who, instead of numbering only 500 men, ought, and easily could be, made 50 times as strong.

Vote agreed to.

(3.) £109,002, Scientific Branch.


referred to the large charge for clerks at Greewich College.


said, the Admiralty had acceded to the request of the Committee, and reduced the number.

Vote agreed to.

(4.) £76,930, Victualling Yards at Home and Abroad.

(5.) £66, 150, Medical Establishments at Home and Abroad.

(6.) £21,316, Marine Divisions.

(7.) £78,010, Medicines and Medical Stores, &c.

(8.) £8,147, Martial Law and Law Charges.

(9.) £130,134, Misellaneous Services.

(10.) £880,796, Half-Pay, Reserved Half-Pay, and Retirement to Officers of the Navy and Royal Marines.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £759,940, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expense of Military Pensions and Allowances, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1878.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

(11.) £279,981, Civil Pensions and Allowances.

(12.) £168,280, Freight, &c. on account of the Army Department.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next;

Committee to sit again this day.